Selling your house in any real estate market takes some planning. In a buyer’s market, the competition can be high, so planning well is important before you put your house on the market. But even in a seller’s market, you want to maximize your home’s value and appeal to get the highest and best on the sale. The two major considerations a seller needs to understand are: 1) how to price the home effectively, and
2) how to get your home in its best condition, both inside and out. Getting your home ready for the market can take some time, depending on the condition.
Getting Your Home Ready for the Market
Lots of sellers can get overwhelmed with what it takes to get their home ready to sell. I’ve seen homeowners who do the least possible and I’ve seen those that break the bank in over-improvements that don’t pay off. Somewhere in the middle is where most successful sellers end up.
Do Your Research
Before dropping a bundle into repairs and renovations that might or might not pay off, a seller would be wise to do their research. First, a home needs to be in keeping with the neighborhood standard to compete in the local market. If the average home in your price-range and area doesn’t have a lot of expensive upgrades, like granite countertops and high-end appliances, then you’d be wasting your money to do a lot of high-end upgrades. You won’t get a good return on your investment.
Vice-versa, if you skimp on the upgrades that every house around you has, your neighbors will appreciate you for helping them to sell their house before yours. You can skimp, but just don’t expect to get the same amount for your home.
What Today’s Buyers Want
A lot of energy is spent on research about what buyers are looking for these days. Realtor Magazine published a recent article listing the top ten wish-list of today’s buyers:
- Large kitchens with islands
- Energy efficiency, including energy-efficient appliances, super insulation, and high-efficiency windows.
- Home offices
- Main-floor master suite
- Outdoor living space
- Adequate Storage
- Soaking tub in the master suite and/or an oversize shower with a seating area
- Stone and brick exteriors rather than stucco or vinyl
- Community walking paths and playgrounds
- Two-car garages, but three-car garages are even more desirable
Emphasize the Positive
If you have any of these features in your home, emphasize them in your marketing. If you don’t have some of these features, don’t sweat it, this is a “wish-list”, just keep emphasizing the positives. Don’t spend a lot of time and money creating something that’s not there, spend your time and efforts making what you have look its best.
Part of your research should be analyzing what your return on investment (ROI) can be for various upgrades and repairs. Each year, Remodeling puts out a Cost Vs. Repair evaluation for nine regions of the country. Frederick Maryland is considered part of the Washington D.C. Metro area. When studying these reports, home owners will see that some repairs and improvements have a higher ROI than others.
Incidentally, the highest rate of return most years is something very simple… replacing the front door.
Outside the House – Curb Appeal
Sometimes sellers grow accustomed to the look of their homes. It can be helpful to have another opinion when trying to decide what projects to take on and how much work is needed when the subject of curb appeal comes up.
The psychology behind great curb appeal is really pretty simple:
As a seller, you want your home to be attractive, appealing, and welcoming. Most of the time, achieving that can be very simple. You want to accentuate positives and minimize negatives. The negatives you want to minimize are also simple: You don’t want the buyer to say to themselves, There’s one more thing I’m going to have to do if I buy this house.” That’s a comment a seller never wants to generate from the buyer. They should rather hear, “I love this house, I could just move right in!”
So how do you get the second comment? Five basic steps.
1. Clean up and declutter. Most of the work is usually in this category.
- Trim back trees, bushes, sidewalk edges and thin out overgrown beds. (Think of it as a haircut, although more of a trim, not a drastic head-shave:) You don’t want the buyer to say, wow, I’m going to have to trim all this back when I move in.
- Rent, borrow or buy a power washer and clean up sidewalks, porches, decks and siding. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a clean surface makes.
- Make sure the grass stays mowed while your home is on the market.
- A fresh coat of paint or stain. Any wood should be freshly cleaned and stained. Again, the buyer will notice and count it as a positive that they won’t have to add it to their list of things to do after moving in. As this list grows, so does the dollar amount a buyer subtracts from their offer!
- The front door and trim is a first impression. You want it to say, The owners love this house and take good care of it.”
- Make sure shutters have been repaired if needed and have a fresh coat of paint. Tired shutters will make all your other efforts look drab.
- The door handle and lighting should be newer and in keeping with the style of the house. Don’t be afraid to light up the entryway for those night-time showings.
3. Create a focal point at the front door. If you have room for seating, add a cozy chair or a bench. Add a wreath of flowers on the door. The idea is to create a sense of welcome. If the door is dated, paint it or replace it.
4. Add color with flowers. If you don’t have space to plant some annuals, then put out pots of colorful flowers around the entryway. Colorful flowers are a delight to the eyes and senses, and they say a big “Hello”.
5.Repair any problems with driveways, sidewalks or brick or stone edging. Patch and seal for a finished look.
Curb Appeal that says, "Welcome Home!"
None of these projects have to be expensive and exhausting. They just take a little elbow grease. And make sure you don’t overdo the colors or the flowers, you don’t want to overwhelm your visitors, you just want to make them feel welcome. Welcome enough to want to stay!
Inside the Home – Staging
After spending a wonderful, yet intensive weekend with some relocation clients, after criss-cossing Frederick County for 3 days, seeing 20 homes in all sorts of conditions, and seeing first-hand our buyer’s responses, I came up with some tips for Frederick home sellers trying to stage their home.
I’d like to talk more about the psychology behind the tips, actually. You can find great staging tips all over the internet, but the real value is in getting an understanding of the mind of a buyer. Seeing through their eyes will be very helpful to you when you are staging your Frederick home for sale.
A. The most important thing that sellers need to keep in mind is that in a buyer’s market, the inventory is on the high side.; That means there is more competition. Sellers need to realize that the best-looking and best-priced homes are the ones that will sell. It’s really that simple. Your home must look the best it can.You have to be vigilant about Dirt and Clutter.
- When buyers see dirt, the natural assumption is, “If they can’t clean their house for a showing, I wonder what other deferred maintenance issues I might have to deal with?” In their mind, a dirty house is not a house that has been cared for. A note to pet owners: some folks are allergic, so you have to do everything you can to minimize pet dander.
- Clutter is also something that absolutely must be tackled. Buyers have a hard time seeing themselves and their stuff in your house, if they can’t see past the clutter. Clutter also makes the space look smaller than it is. Here’s my thought: You’re moving anyway, so why not pack up most of your stuff and live lightly for a few weeks?
B. As a seller, you are trying to throw as wide a net as possible, and appeal to as many buyers as you can. That is the psychology behind neutralizing and de-personalizing your decor. Not to the point of boring, but to the point of tasteful and neutral. You have to change your thinking from “this house;is my home and hearth”, to “this house is a commodity that I am trying to sell.”
- Assume that buyers have no imagination. They can’t see past the gold velvet drapes in the dining room. Sure they looked great with your Queen Anne dining set, but most buyers probably don’t have your exact set. The average buyer is 30 years old. They probably like Pottery Barn or even Ikea, who knows. The point is, they have to see themselves in your home.
- If you have some great features, don’t be shy about highlighting them, especially if they were the features that sold you on the house. Do you have a great view? Then open the window coverings, and orient the furniture to emphasize the view. Do you have a hot tub? By all means, turn it on, uncover it and put out the margarita glasses. Suggest to buyers how they will enjoy your home. Do you have a gorgeous master bath? Put out the candles and Champagne glasses and suggest romance to your buyers. Remember, you’re assuming that they have no imagination, so you need to give them every reason to love your home.
C. For so many years, we’ve watched buyers in the decision-making process. No matter how analytical they are when they start the process, eventually, they make decisions based largely on emotion. They connect emotionally with a house and they start to see themselves making it their home. Find ways to stage your home so that you Accentuate the Positive and Minimize the Negative. Help buyers fall in love with your home.
Pricing Your Home Effectively
The third item to consider when selling your home is pricing. A seller needs to price it accurately from the start. We see it so often, when a seller prices their home high, for many unrealistic reasons, they end up worse off in the long run. They end up selling their neighbor’s homes, then settling for a low-ball offer after too many months on the market.
Here are some principles that will help sellers understand the why’s and how’s of pricing their home effectively:
1. First of all, a seller must detach themselves emotionally from their home. They need to think of it as a commodity, not their nest of memories and comforts. Stop calling it your home, and start calling it a house.
2. A seller needs to get a clear picture of what homes like theirs are selling for. Find a Realtor® who understands the market and can give you statistics of the homes sold in the previous 3 – 6 months. Many sellers mistakenly focus on the list prices of homes that are currently on the market. This statistic only tells us what price homes are NOT selling for.
3. A seller needs to understand there is a strategy for each price range. A strategy for selling to first-time buyers will be different than the strategy used for move-up buyers.
4. A seller needs to have current statistics about the average percent of sales price compared to list price. They also need to know the average days on market in their price range and area.
5. The first 30 days on the market will bring in the most buyer interest and showings. Statistics show that if a home is priced right and in good condition, they should get 1 offer for every 10 showings. If they don’t get an offer, they are priced too high.
6. After too much time on the market, a home will get a negative stigma in the minds of buyers. The seller should count on getting low-ball offers.
7. Price reductions are likely as a seller tries to find the real market value. It’s important that sellers stay open-minded about finding that value and remember: The home is truly worth what a buyer is willing to pay.